Improving the Business and Social Return from Corporate Social Good Programs

How Workplace Giving/Corporate Volunteering Programs Need to Change to Realize Better Results
Feb 3, 2011 1:00 PM ET

Improving the Business and Social Return from Corporate Social Good Programs

What do micro-finance, crowdsourcing, mass personalization, user-empowerment, transparency and social media have in common?  They are almost completely absent in conventional approaches to corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy – especially workplace giving… Somewhere on the web, you can design your own jeans, build your own car, broadcast your ardent opinions and values to willing listeners, create critical mass or tipping points for ideas or even product discounts by being part of an aligned crowd, etc., yet when you walk through the doors of the place where you spend the majority of your waking time, most of that empowered existence ceases.  (And we wonder why our people are not more engaged?!)

What if it didn’t need to be so  - at least as relates to engagement of employees around social responsibility, sustainability and corporate philanthropy – an increasing area of investment for most companies of any size?

Happily for society, social consciousness (which we’ll use as an umbrella term for CSR/CI, sustainability, having meaning in all that you do, giving back, and related concepts) is more top-of-mind than ever.  Poke your head up from your desk at all and you will see that cause marketing and giving back are as mainstream as is afternoon drinking on Mad Men.  The value proposition for these increasing initiatives and spend is not merely altruism (though wouldn’t that be nice?) or seeking/reinforcing a social license for the relevant business to operate (which is increasingly important), it may be even simpler: all else being more or less equal, people will pick the product or service or employer that gives back over the one that doesn’t, and the likelihood of an individual taking the targeted action goes up, the more the chosen cause resonates with him or her personally.  Whether customer or employee-facing, successful connection around shared values/causes creates an emotive connection – the path to true loyalty and engagement.  That’s success on any scorecard.

Companies of all sizes are making increasing investments in social good programs (though spending seems to be mostly directed toward consumer cause marketing and community outreach initiatives).  When we take a pulse check on the current state of these programs (and especially workplace giving!), the fact is that if engagement, team-building and brand lift are part of the goals (and they likely should be to invite measureable ROI and sustainable investment in this area) the status quo just isn’t cutting it. 

The overarching reason the current approach is flawed is that within the techno-centric, personalized and empowered world in which we live, conventional approaches to workplace giving don’t play because they are almost completely top-down, flying starkly in the face of the democratization that most user-facing technology delivers.  People now (perhaps rightly?) expect more from the companies that they work for and with.  They bring their “whole selves” to work and they expect the businesses that they choose as employers or suppliers to not only help them give back, but to give them a meaningful seat at the table in so doing. 

Employee giving, donation matching and corporate volunteering programs are fast becoming an essential part of the toolkits needed to execute strategic CSR, Community Investment (CI) and Human Capital Management plans.  Having these programs is great – maybe even imperative in a society that has an increased appetite for achieving meaning and sustainability in all that they do – but offering costly programs that don’t resonate with stakeholders or invite broad take-up among targeted constituents wastes resources, attention and opportunity.  Too often, the act of giving or volunteering is far removed from the corporate matching offer, is cumbersome or unwieldy to track, record or effect, and applies to too narrow a scope of causes.  Or even worse, companies implement what is effectively grant-management software under the guise of a workplace giving program and can’t figure out why their employee take-up is so low.  The data speaks: it’s time to put a big X through the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” approach to workplace giving and corporate volunteering.

And the appetite is (by necessity) growing.  On the workplace giving front, many companies with existing programs are looking for ways to address the limited number of charities in the program, expand giving from a seasonal focus to a year-round activity, engage their employees and their brand by getting their employees out volunteering in the community in a trackable, rewardable way, and to generally garner more ROI from investing in these programs.

Although at Benevity we’re highly biased (we are a provider of software that helps companies better deliver and manage their corporate giving/volunteering programs), we believe a technological approach that emphasizes simplicity, ease of use, flexibility and empowered choice to the user, while enabling companies and individuals to leverage their investments through real-time matching offers and customized portfolios of causes under strategic pillars, is a compelling formula for success.  (Not too mention a user interface that was built in this decade!). Toss in some use of crowdsourcing for charity portfolios and rallying around causes, the ability to self-generate campaigns on-the-fly, a dash of social media and mobile for promotion, tracking and administration of everything and you’ve got something that will:

  • Positively impact employee engagement, attraction & retention;

  • Provide the flexibility and choices to implement a workplace giving/corporate volunteering program that people will use, charities will applaud and stakeholders will acknowledge, while aligning with a company’s corporate community investment strategy, partners and focus areas;

  • Easily, cost-effectively and in a timely manner, implement workplace giving/corporate volunteering so that available budget from companies of any size can focus on and deliver programs with increased social and business ROI on CSR/CI spend, rather than dollars wasted on administration.

This may not seem to the uninitiated like a game-changing approach, but it is.  Just ask some of the many companies that are spending millions on these programs – and those that are considering such programs - if they would like to connect their spend more directly to the targeted behaviours and strategic goals. 

Here’s to igniting the light in your employees in 2011 – stay tuned for more on this topic!

Spark! by Benevity
Spark! is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) workplace giving/corporate volunteering solution designed to help companies engage their employees through giving back.  Spark! is a plug-and-play solution with flexibility and choices so companies of all shapes and sizes can easily and cost effectively implement year-round employee giving of both time and money with real-time corporate matching, Dollars for Doers programs, and charitable gift card capabilities.  Find out more at

About Benevity
Benevity is a software company that helps businesses realize a greater return on their (increasing) investments in social good programs, including corporate social responsibility, community investment, cause marketing and workplace giving initiatives.  Benevity has developed North America’s first embeddable micro-donation platform, enabling socially responsible businesses to engage their customers, employees and corporate partners in optional charitable giving in new ways on their terms. The Benevity platform helps companies build authentic and impactful cause marketing, workplace giving and other social responsibility initiatives that increase engagement, brand differentiation and return on social and community investment. To find out more, visit us at and view our short video at